Disney Auditions

After a very exciting and nerve-racking audition and application process, I have accepted the offer to be a Character Performer at Walt Disney World. 

mickey
New Year’s Day. 2014.

Several people have asked me how this journey to Walt Disney World began.  I hope this post is an entertaining read and can be used as a guide to readers interested in auditioning for Disney in the future (as many blogs and current Disney Cast Members helped me throughout my journey…)

Like many children around the world, I grew up in a “Disney-lovers household.” I was still in diapers when my siblings and I would reenact the entire movie, Beauty and the Beast.  I was 3 years old when I traveled to Disney World with my family for the first time. When my parents ask where we should go on vacation, Disney World is at the top of my list.  It just never gets old.

During my most recent trip to Disney World last December, I stood in the 20 minute wait to talk to and hug my favorite Disney character, Mickey Mouse.  After a big hug from Mickey,  I didn’t want to leave.  I just wanted to live at Disney World and be best friends with all my favorite characters.  The following day, I had the opportunity to talk to a Concierge at the Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort.  He was enthusiastic about Disney and inspired me to look into the Disney College Program.

When I returned home from vacation, my friend asked if I wanted to join her in attending a Disney Character Look-Alike/Parade Performer audition in Nashville.  I thought it sounded like a wonderful and fun opportunity, and we invited a few other friends to join us.  On March 9th, we drove to DC Dance Factory (about 15 minutes away) at 9am for the audition.  The lobby was packed with 200 young men and women exciting chattering about all things Disney.

The two choreographers asked everyone to stand in line in the main studio.  It was then when I noticed more than half of the girls there had their hair in a tight bun and were styling a leotard and ballet shoes.  For a second, I thought my friends and I accidentally walked into a hardcore Disney dance audition. I turned to the girl behind me.

“Are you a dancer?” I asked.
“Yes!”  She squealed with a smile. “I’ve been dancing my whole life!!”

Oh boy… I’m in trouble.

From the moment everyone walked in, the choreographers watched each of us to see if we interacted with each other, stood with (or without) confidence, and had “the Disney look.”  Within three seconds, the choreographers could tell if an individual exuded confidence, joy, and spirit. Here are a few ways to feel confident and relaxed before and during the audition:

  • Wear clothes that fit well and are comfortable.  They want to see your body type and how you can move, but please don’t think you’ll just simply come in and impress them with a gorgeous body and/or face.  
  • Apply enough make up to look alive and accentuate your facial features, but not too much to the point where you just look foolish.
  • Be sure to talk to other people around you, because chances are you have at least one thing in common (ex: a love for Disney!)  
  • Don’t feel like you have to be a ballerina, because that’s not the ONLY Disney look.  I brought dance shoes but preferred to dance barefoot to feel the most “myself.”
  • It’s okay to be nervous, but don’t let that stop you from going through with the audition. My friends and I had to support each other the whole time  (especially when we were tempted to run away!!) You never know who the choreographers are looking for… they could be looking for YOU. 

After standing in line for almost 45 minutes, my friends and I made it to the registration table where each person wrote down his or her name and e-mail address.  The choreographers gave us all an audition number and measured everyone’s height.  I stood up as straight as I could to at least make it to 5 feet (#shortpeopleproblems).  When the last individual signed in, they told us what we were to expect for the day.  “Channel your inner child,” The choreographers advised us.  I tied my hair in low-pigtails.  It was game time.

FIRST ROUND: All 200 individuals learned a basic step routine (grapevine with some claps and some jazz hands) and after practicing the routine a few times, they split us up into two massive groups.  I was in the first group and after we danced 4 people at a time, the choreographers lead us into another room where we waited while the second group auditioned.  When both groups finished the first round of the audition, the choreographers called everyone back in to the main studio to announce the numbers of those who were asked to stay and continue to the next round.

“75” The choreographer announced.
My heart skipped a beat.  That was me.  

When all the numbers were called, I heard the huffs and puffs of frustrated girls who had auditioned 5 times to be a Disney princess.  I watched young men sob uncontrollably, devastated they would not be Prince Charming.  And there I was in the midst of all this… #75.

The remaining 50 of us, including my best friend, filled out a sheet to write down our shoe size, eye color, hair color, etc.  We could attach a headshot or resume if we wanted, but the choreographers took our pictures during that time.  They prepared us for the next round:

Meeting Snow White. Summer 1996.
Meeting Snow White. Summer 1996.

“Remember when you entered middle school and all of a sudden you cared about what other people think of you? For the next hour or so, we want you to be a little kid again.  Don’t think about what anybody thinks of you.  Just be yourself and have a good time.”

SECOND ROUND: We were instructed to be a zoo animal of our choice.  I decided to be a beaver. The choreographer laughed as I waddled around the room and built my imaginary beaver dam.  I honestly couldn’t tell you what other people around me were doing as I stayed focused on performing to the best of my ability.  It is important to stand out and show them what you are capable of/how you can move. They want you to be able to tell a story using only your body movements.

THIRD ROUND: We were taught a more complex dance/parade routine with a few turns, spins, and kicks.  Even if you can’t do the routine perfectly, SELL IT!  But the quicker you learn the routine, the more you can incorporate your own personality into it.  I was able to add my own air kisses, waves, and facial expressions I had observed parade performers do at Walt Disney World in the past. Try to watch Youtube videos of Disney parade performers and practice their movements and facial expressions.  This will give you a general idea of what kind of animation they are looking for! I was smiling and laughing the entire time.  It was a blast learning a Disney parade routine with my best friend.

With 50 dancing people in the room, the studio was extremely warm.  We all begged the choreographers to turn on the fans.“This is what it’s going to be like in Orlando. Hot. So you better get used to it,” The choreographer joked.

FINAL ROUND:  The 50 of us were split up and assigned into groups of 3.  We were instructed to dance the choreography then immediately transition into our zoo animal.  So in my case, I did the parade routine then transitioned into a beaver and waddled around the dance floor/built my beaver dam.  We performed the sequence twice for the choreographers while they scored us.  Performing just a 30-second routine, I tried to portray as many characters as I could think of in the moment.  For example, in different parts of the routine, I found ways to be as silly as Goofy, as dainty as Snow White, and then as sassy as Tinkerbell.  Use the routine to showcase all the characters you can resemble! They want lots and LOTS of personality!!

35301_445321828427_8273180_n
Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl-Toy Story 2

Those who made it through the audition were handed a card that included the next step which was to apply for the Disney College Program.  I thanked the choreographers and left the studio feeling confident and inspired.  Remember to thank the choreographers. They are there all day as well, and it’s important to show your appreciation for the crazy amount of work they do!

The day after the audition, I applied for the Disney College Program (DCP).  After DCP approved my application, I was invited to complete a web and phone interview. Here are some tips for the phone interview:

  • Prepare and rehearse answers to basic and DCP interview questions.  Think of how you handled a difficult situation, how well you get a long with others, etc. 
  • Plan ahead: Be sure to  have the phone interview somewhere quiet and free from distractions.
  • Smile. Smile. Smile. Write a sticky note with the word, “Smile!” and slap it on your laptop to remember to smile and sound pleasant over the phone.
  • Have your professional and theatre resume out in front of you to refer to it. (I knew I would be nervous and forget to mention important things on my resume!)
  • Use correct grammar.  Avoid “like” and “um.”  I tend to overuse the word “awesome” so to prevent that, I made a list of other words I could use, “terrific, wonderful, phenomenal, sensational…etc.”
  • ASK QUESTIONS and SAY THANK YOU.  I suggest asking 2-3 questions (How he or she started working at Disney, when you are to expect a response, etc.)  Have a pen or paper ready (or your laptop) to record the responses.  Be sure to thank him/her at the end of the interview 

**Most importantly: Be honest.  Being a Disney-lover doesn’t mean you will love working at Disney.  You may THINK you want to work at Disney World, but if you don’t like hanging out with children or being in the heat, it may not be a good fit for you.

Within the week, I was offered the Concierge position for DCP.  I called DCP and asked what I should do because Disney Entertainment was still hosting auditions around the country for Character Performers.  They advised me to decline the Concierge position and wait to see if I receive an e-mail from Disney Entertainment to be part of the general recruitment.   After much consideration, I decided to take the risk and decline the Concierge position.

I kept having dreams of receiving a rejection e-mail from Entertainment, as if my subconscious was preparing for the worst-case scenario.  I would wake up every morning and immediately check my phone.  Nothing.  When I finally received an e-mail from Entertainment the morning of March 24th, I was waiting in the lobby at the doctor’s office.  The nurse called me in to take my blood pressure.

“Your pulse is fast… Are you nervous today?” She joked.
“No, I just received some exciting news. That’s all.”  I smiled.

Immediately following my doctor’s appointment, I submitted a second application that required a cover letter and resume.  The application had to be submitted within 24 hours.   The next morning, I received a second e-mail from Entertainment to schedule a phone interview … with the senior casting recruiter at Walt Disney World.

During the 2 weeks I prepared for my final interview, I researched as much as I could about the position. The night before the interview, I was able to get in touch with Tinkerbell, who was extremely helpful and shared what it is like to enter a whole new world of magic and fantasy.  The next morning, April 10th, I had my phone interview with the senior casting recruiter.  It was during my interview when she told me I was offered the job as a Character Performer at Walt Disney World.  I move to Orlando in less than a month!!

Every year, thousands of people all over the worlds audition to be a character performer at Walt Disney World.  The entire application process was definitely a whirlwind, but also an exciting adventure.  I have a lot of people to thank-especially my supportive parents, siblings, boyfriend, and friends.  I was very touched by the helpfulness and encouragement of current and past Disney Cast Members and Character Performers who were willing to answer all my questions.

photo
Belle from Beauty and the Beast

I can still remember how characters made my visit to Walt Disney World as a young child memorable and magical.  I look forward to this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring that same joy to a new generation of children and their families.  My goal is to have guests leave with the same excitement, wonder, and inspiration I experience every time I visit Walt Disney World.

For anyone auditioning, please feel free to e-mail me at catieheg@gmail.com for more information. I’m happy to answer questions regarding the audition process. Thanks for reading!

 

 

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